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OCTOBER IS A DIFFICULT MONTH TO PREDIT FOR THE GREENHOUSE

By Linda Lane, managing director of Griffin Glasshouses

In normal times October is a cooler month, often with the first frosts in the north and more exposed locations as we head for November.  But today, who knows?  The best advice is to listen to the weather forecasts and, if you have an accurate barometer, keep a weather eye on it.

Tomatoes, sweet peppers and aubergines are still cropping in my greenhouse and need regular watering.  I expect them to be over by the end of the month.  Then I shall harvest and lift the plants for composting.  Make sure all the support canes are taken out of the greenhouse and thoroughly cleaned before storing them for next season.

If, at the end of the month, I have green tomatoes, peppers and aubergines, I usually lay them out carefully, so they are not touching, on a series of plastic trays covered in brown paper.  I leave them by a south facing window and check them daily.  Any sign of fungus or disease, immediately dispose of them in the dustbin not the compost heap.  That said, with all the sun this season, almost everything looks as though it will ripen perfectly by the end of the month, so no fresh tomatoes for Christmas!

British summer time ends on Sunday 30 October when the clocks go back by one hour. The daylight hours are reduced leading up to the shortest day on December 21, the start of winter, when daylight hours very slowly begin to extend again.

It’s housekeeping time in the greenhouse once everything has been lifted.  With limited daylight hours it is necessary to clean all the glass to maximise what sunlight is available.  Dig over the borders where the tomato, pepper and aubergine crops were growing and remove all weeds.   A light treatment on a pelleted fertiliser, but not chicken manure pellets because of the smell, raked into the soil and watered, will ensure the beds are in good order in time for planning next season.

If you insulate your greenhouse, the best time to do this is after the clean up and before any tender plants are brought in for their winter siesta.   But make sure the glass is clean before putting up your insulation.

Know where you are positioning your overwintering plants and prepare what ever you use to stand them on.  On sunny days keep a good flow of air through the greenhouse but close up at nights.

If a frost is forecast make sure any tender vegetables growing in the garden, such as butternut squash, are brought in, cleaned and dried.

As ever, watch out for slugs, snails and other unwanted guests on overwintering plants.

October is the time to sow spring cropping lettuce in the greenhouse.

Happy gardening, Linda.

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